About Me (CLICK)

Ft MYERS, Fl, United States

Nick Bodven


No1 JUNE 2013


Southwest Florida's Butterfly Research Project. Hello volunteers and friends


News Letter

It will be called " The Butterfly Net " Refers to our network of butterfly enthusiasts here in Southwest Florida.

We have talked for some time about sending information in a newsletter form. Well here's our first attempt.

I plan to have articles and photos about our local butterflies, information pertaining to our project with updates on sightings of tagged butterflies each quarter.

This will also give us a way to recognize the accomplishments of our volunteers and give them a form to tell us about themselves, their butterfly experiences, opinions or show off their gardens.

We have Dr. Jim and Kelly Dunford, our associates at the Universities of Georgia Minnesota and Florida that will share their expertise and projects.

Any articles, comments or questions for print will be greatly appreciated.

The Butterfly Net will be posted and archived on my blog.

Most of our time over the past year and a half has been developing a outline and the goals of our study, testing suitable tagging material and producing them, getting new volunteers and providing them instructions and tags, contacting and providing articles and interviews with different news media so they could make the general public aware of why we are tagging Monarch butterfly and get their support. We also are collaborating with the universities of Georgia and Minnesota in their research projects. With much of the initial development of our project behind us we hope to be more efficient, improve our educational efforts and update our volunteers of the developments of our study on a more timely basis through a newsletter. We now have a significant group of experienced and dedicated volunteers. We encourage and welcome your suggestions and constructive criticism. Emails are okay but I prefer a one-on-one conversation in person or by telephone.

After reviewing the summery of the number of butterflies tagged and O E samples , the value of the annual butterfly conference and the Tom Allen butterfly house and the education efforts at Rotary Park etc. proves how unselfish and dedicated our volunteers are to improving and reversing the destructive impact of the local and worldwide population growth is having on our environment.

It is because of your volunteer efforts Gayle and I will continue supporting you and remain committed to developing the study of our local butterflies and tagging program and enhancing a long range program for the preservation of the monarch and other species of butterflies here in Southwest Florida. In addition to the universities of Georgia and Minnesota I will be working on getting the University of Florida to recognize the environmental and economic importance of the butterfly, bat and bee population is to Florida and its agriculture.

We expect to continue tagging and sampling for diseases or parasites on a year around basis. Getting usable data on conditions and trends will take many years and we hope you will continue to participate.

Tagging Results May 2013

You will receive a email containing reported sightings of tagged butterfly, the name of the tagger with the number of days and distance after tagging.

The report summarizes the 37 documented sightings of tagged butterflies to May 2013. That number far exceeds our expectations. Gayle has distributed approximately 2000 tags. Until we have received all of the data from our volunteers we estimate that 6 to 800 butterflies have been tagged. Zero (0) miles indicates butterflies sighted returning to the original tagging location.

Significant in the report are that a number of butterflies are living longer then there normally expected lifecycle and are living 63 and 80 days and a 1239 miles flight from Cape May NJ. We also have a number of one to three day reported but not documented.

I have a report on OE sample results of each volunteers that sent samples to the University of Georgia. All indicate a higher amount of contamination compaired to migrating butterflies. I will consolidate the reports and send them to everyone in another email.


The vinyl tagging material we are presently using seems to adheres satisfactorily to the butterfly's wings. The shape and telephone numbers on the tags are relatively easily identifiable at close range by eye sight, or photos. Using binoculars or enlarging pictures taken with a telephoto lens can increases the ID range exceeding 25 yards. Some sighting have been received directly from a cell phone accompanied with a photo .We have a larger than expected number sightings of tagged butterflies reported..

The oval ultra thin Vinyl white tags we are now using are distinguishable from the round or square tags used by other butterfly research projects and proven not to harm the butterflies or effect flight.

A different tag shape will be used in 8B, 9A and 9B if the program grows state wide. Tag shapes, colors, or ID numbers can reveal release zones without recapture.

Our 3rd addition tags are oval white tags and are used primarily in zones 10 A & 10B.

They are being used for the SW Florida Migration Study with black telephone and tag ID numbers.

Sighting reports go directly to Gayle Edwards at (239-826-4103)

Some tags for special projects or tag testing may have different telephone numbers or a additional ID such as Rotary and Manatee parks or school names printed in red.

In addition highly reflective day and night tags available.

All tags are furnished at no charge.

If you plan to continue tagging please contact Gayle Edwards for this new series.

The tag should be placed on a dry wing with firm pressure to the entire tag.

I will continue providing printed tags, non printed color, reflective day or night tags at no cost for those that are participating in our study and the university's.

Butterflies in Florida.

Butterflies are a significant indicator of the health of our environment. One of our projects goal is to bring awareness to the public, our local and state universities, and other conservation organizations.

This year I have am seeing the most severe decline in Monarch sightings in the past 15 years.

One of the major causes of in Florida and worldwide decline in the number of monarch butterflies is contributed to loss of habitat. Part of our projects goals are to find the degree diseases and parasites also contributes to the decline.

The two primary migration routes of the monarchs have been studied extensively for a number of years, yet there is very little or no reference or study of the migrating and year around resident monarch population we have in Florida. Hopefully our efforts will correct this

A number of you are also contributing to the study of the health of our butterflies by participating in the two research projects of the University's of Georgia and Minnesota.

Our efforts to tag the wintering butterflies hopefully a sighting will be reported during their northern migration. We will be sending a email to nurseries along the North bound migration route through Florida explaining our project, including a photo the tags, our contact information and ask them to please notify us if seen.

Native or Non native Milkweed

One of the unanswered questions is whether nonnative milkweed is invasive and is it beneficial or harmful to the Monarch population.

I am trying to find more detailed information about all the milk weed plants in Florida. We have to know the species, were they grow and when they can be expected to provide ample food for the caterpillars. This will determine when and where to tag monarchs we expect to migrate.

It has taken me a number of years to find about 25 native milkweed plants in Lee and Collier county's. I did not see any signs they were eaten or have live caterpillars on them. The plants have a low amount of toxins, called cardiac glycosides may be the reasons butterflies are not apt to use them.

I began raising Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) two years ago and hope to start growing Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) this year.

Raising native milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) can be very difficult. I have received information from other gardeners that it rarely survives being transplanted.

I have learned a little bit about this plant.

Use fresh seeds, germination deteriorates rapidly. Seedlings should be trans planted before they grow their third primary leaves. This is to avoid damaging the very fragile now accelerating growth of the taproot at this stage.

Seeds do not germinate and establish roots in soil that is primarily sand here in southern Florida. My next plantings will be growing and transplanting seeds in peat pots, Establishing a plot of soil and adding organic materials that will retain moisture in a shaded location.

Last year's plants are beginning to produce multiple stems that emerge from the taproot.

Scarlet milkweed is known as bloodflower, Indian root, tropical milkweed. It's scientific name is Asclepias curassavica. Google it for more information.

I believe there is a possibility with continuing loss of habitat, diseases, parasites and the change in climate monarch butterflies would not be able to sustain a population and could or would not be able to over winter here in Southwest Florida if it were not for the commercially grown scarlet milkweed.

As some researchers are now suggesting scarlet milkweed be classified as invasive. What may be the unintended consequences of eliminating this food source for monarch.

In the meantime I am learning more about raising these two native species and if successful I hope to be able to provide seedlings at no cost to our local native plant nurseries to sell in addition to scarlet milkweed and encourage them to add it to their nursery stock. Hickory Hammock is our first nursery attempting to raise tuberosa milkweed plants.

I encouraging planting the native milkweed species when possible.

Until reliable research with documentation determine scarlet milkweed to be invasive and planting it is detrimental to monarch butterflies we will continue to monitor this research and recommend continued planting of scarlet milkweed.

Go to this website for a description of non-native milkweeds fund here in Florida.


No Nectar No Butterflies !

How can we improve the nectar source for our butterflies?

I find it strange that we spend millions of dollars in labor and purchased equipment to cut and spray our roadsides, but no money to plant flowers. The Florida D.O.T. did plant native flower seeds along our roadsides and provide free packets of seeds to the public. I did plant a few packs of those seeds along Highway 80 at Manatee park. Lasted till first mowing.

Changing roadside landscapes such as colored flowers has been proven to improves driver alertness and promotes safer driving.

Our state and local parks, 2020 land and many conservation acres restrict the harvesting of seeds and deemed it illegal to do so. Why is obvious. Yet very few of these seeds ever naturally produce a plant. Why not utilize some of these non plant reproducing seeds.

I am not suggesting recovering seeds by commercial growers.

Every park or 20-20 land has a list of every existing species of plants at those locations. The parks and recreation departments have very qualified individuals that could supervise a selective seed harvesting and planting program.

We are fortunate to have local and state wide chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society, garden clubs etc. that I believe would be willing to plant and propagate these seeds.

I am suggesting planting native flowering plants were they previously existed and identifying new palatable areas in park, 20-20 land and roadsides.

I sent a email to Texas Department of transportation requesting there data planting seeds on the road sides is cost-effective versus cutting.

Reply: Mr. Bodven:

Thank you for your inquiry. TxDOT does not have any specific documentation on how much our wildflower program saves in maintenance costs, but we do know that it save us at least one mowing cycle in the Spring when the flowers first bloom. We don't mow until all the flowers stop blooming. For a state the size of Texas, a single mowing cycle is about $28 million. So that's a considerable savings.

To Bee or not to Bee / That is the question

Without bees, butterflies, bats and others important pollinators the abundance of fruits, oranges and grapefruit that we take for granted in Florida may become unaffordable and literally worth their weight in gold.

Many people do not recognize the importance butterflies play to our entire Eco system.

The task our volunteers have taken on to bringing public awareness of the importance butterflies to our environment is not insignificant.

Picture it is a puzzle. Lose one piece and you still can identify the picture. If you continue losing pieces eventually the entire picture becomes unidentifiable and useless.

Cats for Kids

Each year Aline and I do a number of butterfly talks at the Lee county schools.

The subjects are what is a butterfly, there lifecycle, identifying butterflies, their migration and additional videos of pupation and immersions. If time permits we talk about and encourage visiting to our county parks.

Florida Cats for kids provides kits to class rooms containing eggs, caterpillars, host plants large enough for them to pupate, foldable cages, reprint-able copies of my Butterflies of Lee county poster, games, and word puzzles at no cost to the school or teachers.

We recently visited Littleton School again and talked to approximately 70 third grade students introducing into our talks for the first time our butterfly tagging program. It immediately introduced a explosion of excitement and questions from the students.

Littleton school has maintained a beautiful butterfly garden for a number of years and a emphasis on butterflies is already part of their science classroom studies. Much of this is encouraged by instructor and butterfly enthusiast Susan Hassett.

Bingo ! Littleton plans to become the first school in Lee County to add tagging and OE testing to their 2014 science curriculum. Two other school have shown interest and I will be talking to them shortly.

In April and May 100 butterflies, caterpillars, eggs and plant were provided to 3 Lee county schools and students workshops at Manatee park conducted by Anita and Rose.

Scientific Adviser

Jim Dunford provides his butterfly and scientific expertise. He is a important part of our tagging program development.

University of Georgia

Thanks to Prof. Sonya Altizer at the University of Georgia we are collaborating with their study of the parasite OE and what effect it has on the Monarch butterflies here in Florida.

Monarch Health (monarchparasites.org)

Monarch Health is a citizen science project to track the prevalence and spread of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), which causes disease in monarch butterflies. This parasite does not infect humans but can make butterflies sick: Monarchs infected with OE may be too weak to emerge properly from their chrysalises and can die at this stage. Or, infected monarchs may look completely normal but cannot fly as well or live as long as healthy monarchs. To check for OE in monarchs, citizen scientists can obtain wild adult monarch butterflies by either catching them or rearing caterpillars until they become adults. Then citizen scientists can press a clear sticker against each monarchs' abdomen to collect any parasite spores. Monarchs can then be released, totally unharmed. Finally, citizen scientists send samples to our lab at the University of Georgia, where we count OE parasites in each sample using a microscope. We share results with citizen scientists and eventually report this data in published scientific articles.

Through Monarch Health, citizen scientists contribute both to a broader understanding about how animal migration influences infectious diseases in wildlife and to more specific knowledge about monarchs. In fact, much of what we know today about monarch ecology and conservation is because of citizen scientists! Citizen scientists have been collecting data on monarchs for over 60 years through many different programs.

Citizen scientists in Monarch Health have helped to identify important patterns of OE disease in monarchs. For example, a special team of citizen scientists in the southern U.S. is currently studying populations of winter-breeding monarchs (monarchs that forego migration to Mexico and instead breed during the winter). Last year, they found that winter-breeding monarchs have levels of OE that are 6 times higher than in monarchs that migrate to Mexico! This suggests that winter-breeding enhances OE disease in monarchs, however, more data is needed to better delineate and understand this pattern. Citizen scientists participating in Monarch Health continue to help uncover interesting results that increase our understanding about the health of monarchs in North America.

You can contact the Monarch Health team at monarchhealth@gmail.com.

Dara Satterfield, U G graduate student also works directly with us. She provides us sampler kits, feedback from our samples, and her expertise of monarch butterflies.

University of Minnesota

We are also working with professor Karen Oberhauser at Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota. www.monarchlab.org

Her research includes Tachinid Flies and Monarch Butterflies: Professor Oberhauser relies on Citizen Scientists like us to do her research

The Tachinidae represent the largest family of dipteran parasitoids, with ~10,000 species. Most of their hosts are Lepidoptera, (Tachinidae) has been reported to parasitize larvae of 25 Lepidoptera species . It parasitizes monarch larvae in the continental U.S. and Hawaii.

Our volunteers can help her by capturing samples. Instructions on how and what samples to collect are on her website. Contact me for further details'

Websites and Blogs

SW Florida Butterfly blog - http://nickiebodv.blogspot.com/

My blog is primarily intended to provide a means to communicate with butterfly enthusiasts here in Southwest Florida providing information on numerous subjects pertaining to butterflies.

Including butterfly and plant identification, butterfly gardening , upcoming butterfly walks, talks, conferences, photos, native plant venders, available free plants including numerous butterfly related web site's and much more.

Two videos have been posted on the site for the past year on how to capture and tag a Monarch butterflies and sample for the parasite OE.

Fort Myers Longwings NABA chapter web site: https://sites.google.com/site/nabalongwings/home

QR codes are available to be place in printed news articles or in vinyl sticker form for the NABA, SW Florida butterfly blog, web sites.

A QR code can be read by a devise such as a camera, IPad, or cell phones and automatically displays the website on that device.

Google Maps

Butterflies of Lee County: This goggle map site is made available to the general public . The map shows the locations and description of tagging locations, sightings of tagged butterflies, private and public butterfly gardens, popular Butterfly viewing locations in Lee County Including parks and 20-20 land. Each type of operation or facility is designated with a different colored balloon. Touching the balloons pop ups show descriptions, requirements, hours or photo for that location.

Sighting and primary tagging location will be posted. If requested volunteers may add their name, address or a picture to pop up, etc.

(This site is working but it is not complete and needs regular updates. If interested in maintaining this map please contact me.)


We have been very fortunate our local newspapers and other publications here and around the state are willing to publish articles about butterflies and our tagging projects If you are asked about our program by news media we will gladly provide you three different written articles that range from a general outline to full details of our project including photos.

To Be Continued

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013


Welcome new volunteers to our monarch tagging and O E sampling program
1. Tagging and sampling will be conducted on raise or wild captured monarch butterflies on a year around basis. 

2. Volunteers may participate in either or both programs. There are no time restraints or quotas and you can  determine the amount of time you wish to devote to the programs. 

3. Tags and OE sampling kits are provided at no charge.

If you participate in the OE sampling program you will have the expense of postage to send those samples to the University of Georgia If you plan to  capture wild butterflies purchase of a net is necessary. 

He evening or weekend training session will be made available to all volunteers upon request. Included are the reason we are monitoring the migration of monarchs and sampling for OE, the raising of butterflies, the lifecycle of butterflies and butterfly gardening.

Contact Nick Bodven at. 239-694-2108 or email shandys@embarqmail.com  

Thursday, August 15, 2013


This is my answer to a resent newspaper article recommending removal of nonnative milkweed and planting native milkweed.

My thought on planting scarlet milk weed.

I will continue recommending planting scarlet milkweed   until  adequate research and scientist agree that scarlet or non native milkweed  is proven detrimental to our environment or  Monarch population. I also recommend gardeners attempt adding native milkweed.

This has also be the position of our tagging group and  as a group we need to  review this subject in the next few months.

(I hope to make native  seeds or plants  available with instructions on raising. My attempts as  others have found little of no success with some species. More on the difficulty of raising non native milkweed to come in later articles.)

Native milkweed is rarely found on our butterfly walks in the parks an on 20/20 land. In the past 15 years covering thousands of acres I have only found 4 locations with a total of less  then 25 plants. I am not saying there is not more, we just have not found them.
 I found no caterpillars or sign that leaves were being eaten. This lead me to believe  there may not be enough native milkweed in 3 county area around Fort Myers Florida to sustain the resident or migrating population we are seeing if it is reduced or eliminated.  ( This is only my assumption not backed up with facts. )

I see another possible indicator away from urban development with more concentration of gardens with non native milk weed.
 Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s July 2013  butterfly survey.

 1640 adults of 37 different species were identified and recorded 2 Monarch butterflies recorded. 2012 there were non.

With the server decline in the monarch population southern Florida may have to become a annual winter sanctuary like Mexico. I do not want to see unintended consequences by eliminating our primary food source for the monarch that live in S.W. Florida.

 I will continue to encourage the universities of Florida, Georgia and Minnesota to target  research toward  our migrating and resident monarch butterflies  and determine if our native milkweed species can sustain a healthy environment.

Out tagging program and OE sampling hopefully aid there research. Example: By recovering tagged OE infected butterflies we may be able to determine changes in there longevity compared to non infected butterflies and dose OE infection change with the seasons that have migrating butterflies.

I sent the article to Professor Sonia Altizer leading researcher and monarch expert  at the University of Georgia. This was her reply.

Hi Nick

You're right that this is an issue that is currently under study by Dara, me, and others.  Our best hypothesis is that tropical milkweed can change the migratory behavior of monarchs, and might promote the transmission of a protozoan parasite, but the impacts of this probably depend on when, where and how much tropical milkweed is planted.   With our data collection efforts currently  underway, we should know a great deal more and can make some scientifically justifiable recommendations to gardeners about whether and how to plant and manage the tropical milkweeds.  For example, it might be that simply cutting these plants back during key times of the year could be effective, or avoiding planting the tropical milkweeds along major monarch migration flyways during the fall months. 

You can find out more on why we think tropical milkweeds could be problematic in this article I wrote for a Georgia publication:

South Florida is probably a special case because of the very mild climate year-round and the fact that curassavica has been there for many decades as an ornamental and naturalized weed.  I'm not sure I would generalize recommendations on not planting curassavica to the South Florida region, because this location supports a very different community of butterflies than the rest of the southeastern US, and has a subtropical rather than temperate zone ecology.  In other parts of the southeast, and especially along major monarch migration flyways such as the Florida panhandle and eastern Texas, I would be more concerned about the tropical milkweed dissemination.

I wish we had some clear answers to your question.   In general, I think it's a good idea to promote the planting of native milkweeds by gardeners whenever possible.  Milkweeds native to your region might include Asclepias humistrata, lanceolata, incarnata, and viridis.  All of these should behave as perennials, and you might b e able to find and distribute seeds from native plant nurseries or from special growers.  For example:

I think if you have the opportunity to promote these other species, which as you note are presently quite rare, and take more TLC to grow well, this might be well worth the effort!   It's not our intention to discourage people from planting milkweed, but just to say - if you can promote the native species, then go for it.

I hope this addresses some of your concerns -

All the best, Sonia

Monday, April 22, 2013

new 2


Wednesday, December 5, 2012



Sampling for OE can be done in conjunction with tagging

If you can participate in this study, I will see that you receive specific instructions and a research kit from the University of Georgia.
Collecting data would involve catching monarchs and collecting a sample from their abdomens. This method is easy, fast, and does not hurt the butterfly.
You can collect samples whenever you have the time.
You have no quotas or deadlines. We will tag and take samples all year, although a concentrated effort targets the winter and spring Monarch migrations.

The lab at the University of Georgia, are interested in studying how different migration patterns of monarchs affect their levels of infection from the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). To investigate this issue, they are inviting us to participate in collecting samples from any monarchs you observe in your area. OE is a fascinating protozoan (single-celled) parasite that cannot infect humans, but can make butterflies sick or die. (more information at: http://www.monarchparasites.org

The Odum School of Ecology at the university welcomed us to join them and participate in Dr. Sonia Altizer's research on monarch parasites.
Project Monarch Health: Southern Initiative


Butterfly Map Of  S. W. Florida

Click On  Link http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=203767466417705734835.000499e84e3f77b53745b&mid=1296704854

If you would like to add your garden or have a good location to view Butterflies and would like it posted on our map email the details and location to  shandys@embarqmail.com


Friday, September 14, 2012

University Of Minnesota

Karen Oberhauser
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Conservation Biology
Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
University of Minnesota
We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work together with Professor Karen  Oberhauser. She shares her expertise and years of research in numerous publications. Google Oberhauser Lab for a list.

I hope the information we collect will  benefit her research.
We talked about the monarch rearing and her appreciation of  great work  our volunteers are doing and discussed the effects that Scarlet Milkweeds have on the Monarchs that Winter in Florida
Email Sept 16 2012 Hi Nick
It was great to talk with you this week. You’re doing a lot of exciting work with FL monarchs, and I look forward to setting up some collaborations. If your volunteers could also record when monarchs produce parasitoid wasps or flies, it would help with our study of monarch mortality. I’ve attached the data sheet  for these collections.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Wednesday at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary 25 volunteers weathered the almost 100 degree heat to conduct its 14th seasonal butterfly count  in conjunction with the North American Butterfly Association's as part of the United States, Canada and Mexico annual count.

Robin Gardener, Rachel Singltary, Carol Littleton  spent about 5 hr on the trails and really enjoyed the day .
We were joined  by photographer Dania Maxwel and reporter Eric Staats from the Naples News. The four of us were impressed with the sincere effort they both made to understand why the volunteers feel butterflies are a important part of our eco system and indicators of its health.

The article and photos showcased the  many time overlooked importance of the volunteers. They endured over two hours of very extremely uncomfortably warm humid  conditions on  the trail  do the story before leaving..
We met some great people on this field trip as we always do and I am sure they will become wonderful long lasting friends. The Webster dictionary does not give the true definition of " volunteer".
It is so important to the promotion of  our butterfly tagging project and the butterfly parasite (OE) testing program we are doing in S W Florida that news papers like the Naples News support us and do these good articles.

106 butterflies counted 14 species

PLEASE READ: Butterfly Count Article and Post a Coment.

I would hope all of you would  read and take the time to post a thanks to  Dania, Eric and the Naples News - Simply regester to post your coment. 

 Click On : volunteers count butterflies box above pictures to go to photo galery
The comment section is on the bottom of the photo gallery page.

.                                            Photos by Nick Bodven